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County commissioners approve tax for November ballot

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The Greene County Commission has a plan to improve the local justice system and reestablish services lost to past budget cuts. But it first needs voter approval.

Commissioners yesterday voted to place a 1/2-cent general revenue sales tax on the Nov. 7 ballot for the purposes of expanding the Greene County Jail, addressing inefficiencies in the justice system, and improving animal control and mental health services, among other needs. If approved, the tax is expected to generate $25.5 million annually, according to a news release.

“We have listened to the community on their concerns and needs,” Presiding Commissioner Bob Cirtin said in the release. “When we cut animal control in 2012, citizens felt that loss very deeply. We want to bring that back. Taxpayers trust us to keep them safe and improve their quality of life.

“We can be more effective in those efforts given adequate space in the jail, efficiency in the justice system and the other community services we hope to implement.”

The new tax, if approved, would:
    •    provide up to $95.9 million over the next 10 years to hire more assistant prosecuting attorneys and jail staff members, as well as implement best practices to reduce the jail population;
    •    allow for up to $33.1 million over 10 years to expand an animal shelter and bring back limited animal control services to the county, as well as fund mental health programs;
    •    fund up to $18.1 million worth of stormwater management improvements;
    •    use up to $13.6 million over a decade to expand the jail, build additional courtrooms, replace existing juvenile facilities and create more evidence storage space; and
    •    create an independent oversight committee to help stabilize the county’s general revenue, at a cost of around $5 million over 10 years.

Greene County’s sales tax rate is currently 1.25 percent, and voters have not approved a new general revenue sales tax since 1988, according to the release.

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